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M&T Bank says sellers scarce for bank deals

M&T Bank chief financial officer Darren J. King offered a simple explanation as to why more bank deals aren't occurring.

"What seems to be the case in banking right now is, everyone wants to be a buyer and no one wants to be a seller," King said Wednesday, during a conference call with analysts.

"I think there's lots of interest in partnerships, but I think everyone's thinking that they're the buyer and not the seller, and I think that's why you're seeing some slower activity than you might expect, given some of the changes that have come out recently with the regulation," he said.

M&T officials are often asked when their next deal is coming. The bank grew extensively through acquisitions, until it was blocked from making more deals for a time by federal regulators. But the regulators lifted that four-year restriction nearly a year ago, opening the door for M&T to start acquiring again.

M&T's approach to dealmaking is no different since Rene F. Jones succeeded the late Robert G. Wilmers as chairman and CEO last December, King said.

"Rene is at the helm now, but was certainly an architect of a lot of the acquisitions we've done in the past," King said. "I'm pretty positive his thought process didn't change as his title changed."

The focus for M&T remains the return on investment, King said.

"If we think there's a combination that makes sense where we can create value for both sets of shareholders and we've got a willing seller, then we're interested in talking to those folks," King said.

King spoke as M&T topped analyst forecasts by reporting a 29 percent increase in its second quarter profits to $493 million. Among his other comments:

  • The trade and tariff battle is something many of M&T's commercial customers are thinking about. "I think any time the environment, there's uncertainty in it, it just causes a little bit of inactivity and paralysis. But it's not widespread."
  • Overall loan growth this year, as previously projected, is looking a lot like 2017, ranging from flat to low single-digit pace. "We currently believe that loan growth for 2018 will be at the lower end of that range."

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